The Big HOO-HAA! Pōneke (Hearts vs Bones)

Te Auaha - Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

13/05/2023 - 20/05/2023

NZ International Comedy Festival 2023

Production Details

It’s an epic improv face-off: the Hearts in one corner, the Bones in the other. And you, the audience, must crown the champion.

But hey, the points are made up and everyone’s having a great time! For two late nights only, catch a selection of Wellington’s most gifted improvisers vying for the trophy via spontaneous scenes, songs, and mischief.

The 2023 NZ International Comedy Festival debut of the long-running Australian improv comedy show that has had audiences in hysterics for decades.

Don’t be hōhā – get to the HOO-HAA!

Saturdays 13 & 20 May only
Price: $26 – $32

Comedy , Theatre , Improv ,

90 minutes

Zings with improvisational talent and is deeply, deeply funny

Review by Emma Maguire 17th May 2023

The Big Hoo-Haa Pōneke has been running in Wellington for a few months now as a part of a local summer improv series. After decades of improvisational joy in Australia, this popular show made its Wellington debut in this year’s Fringe. I went along to the first Saturday late show as a part of the New Zealand International Comedy Festival, to check out this very impressive and fast-paced improv format.

Loathe as I am to describe this show as an ‘improv gameshow’, that’s basically what it is. Our two teams, the Hearts and the Bones, compete against each other in several rounds of improv play, where the audience votes on who wins. The team with the most points at the end wins the Big Hoo-Haa trophy. This show has a rotating cast of some of Wellington’s best improvisers, so regardless of what night you rock up to see the show, you’re in for a treat.

This night, we have Gab Raz, Wiremu Tuhiwai and Guanny Liu-Prosee representing the Hearts, all decked out in red, and Megan Connolly, Jed Davies and Elliott Lam for the Bones, with Malcolm Morrison MC-ing, Nina Hogg scorekeeping and Matt Hutton providing on-the-spot keyboard music for each scene.

Six rounds of wildly different improv are what greets the audience within this show. From ‘Switch Left’, a game where the performers maintain three different scenes in one, changing between them by switching partners by stepping to the left, to ‘Cliffhanger’, where the performers are ‘directed’ by others in their team in a variety of movie scenes, to full-on musical numbers, The Big Hoo-Haa stretches our performers’ abilities to hilarious effect.

I especially enjoy one of the scenes from ‘Cliffhanger’ where a group of actors within Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton envision their lives after the show has closed. One of the actors (played by Megan Connolly), who holds a box above their head – this is an in-joke from the musical itself – continues holding the box up as they win a Tony and give a beautiful speech. It’s a fantastic scene.

Foolishly, I hadn’t realised this show was an hour and a half long, rather than the traditional 55 minutes, so am quite surprised when it come to 11pm and we are in for another half an hour. The length of the show, I feel, is perhaps its only fault – even if it had started earlier in the evening, the pace begins to drop after several rounds of challenging improv, and it might benefit from being slightly truncated. The ‘Cliffhanger’ game, with its many rounds, feels especially long when placed at the end of the show. 

However, despite the above, The Big Hoo-Haa, Pōneke zings with improvisational talent and is deeply, deeply funny. It’s a great introduction to Wellington improv if you’ve never been before, and a friendly high-five if you know the performers and the community. I will definitely be back. 


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